Skip to main content

tv   American Artifacts  CSPAN  December 22, 2015 10:30pm-11:01pm EST

10:30 pm
happy. >> at 8:00 p.m., cornell west examines the life of dr. martin luther king jr. in his book "the radical king." >> martin understood that for not just christian, but for any human being who wants to reach a level of integrity, honesty and decency as a long-distant runner, you've got to kill something in yourself, fear. you've got to kill something in yourself, your obsession with position and status and wealth. >> followed at 9:00 p.m. by former senator john dan forth, author of "the relevance of religion: how faithful people can change politics." >> religion does point us beyond ourselves, and for faithful people, the me, you know, what's in it for me, the me is not central. >> then at 10:00 p.m., senator claire mccaskill talks about her book "plenty ladylike," a memoir about her experiences in local, state and federal government. >> i don't think we do anybody
10:31 pm
any favors by trying to dress up politicians as if we are not real human beings that have made major mistakes and had major problems in our lives. >> saturday evening at 7:00, a panel discussion on national review founder william f. buckley jr.'s run for new york city mayor in 1965. and at 11:00 p.m., winston groom discusses his latest book, "the generals: patton, mcarthur, marshall and the winning of world war ii." >> one of the first questions i'm usually asked when i do a tv or radio show is why did you choose these three men from the second world war? and the answer is that they embodied, i believe, super characteristics of courage, character and patriotism. >> on sunday night at 8:00, author david petrusia looks back at a turning point in world history in 1932, the rise of hitler and fdr.
10:32 pm
and at 11:15 p.m. eastern, alyssa katz discusses her book, "the influence machine: the u.s. chamber of commerce and the corporate capture of american life." >> there's a reason that i chose the chamber of commerce as a subject for my book, and it's because this single organization really sums up the story of how we got here to this place. >> this holiday weekend, watch booktv on c-span2. each week, "american artifacts" takes viewers into archives, museums and historic sites around the country. next, senate historian emeritus john ritchie takes us inside the dirksen senate office building. we learn about the building's construction, its place in congressional history and the building's namesake, former republican leader everett dirksen. >> once upon the time, the entire united states senate could operate out of a capitol building, and that was in the 19th century, when the demands on the government were a lot
10:33 pm
smaller than they are today. but as demands on the government grew and as government services grew, more public letters started coming in, more staff had to be hired, more space had to be acquired, and eventually, the three senate office buildings were constructed. the richard russell building, the everett dirksen building, and the philip hart building. right now, we're in the dirksen building. we're in the large multipurpose hearing room that's had various layers of history to it. the first senate office building opened up in 1909, which is now known as the richard russell building, and that was because the government was growing. this was in the progressive era. there were more and more services coming out. but as all the senators were all in one building and all the staff were in one building, and there was sort of a small community of senators and staff that existed in that building
10:34 pm
until 1958, but steadily, the demands on the government increased. people started writing in, social security became an issue. so many other federal issues directed affected citizens. and so, they wrote to their senators and the senators hired more staff and they tried to find some more places to put them. at one point, the russell building was absolutely crammed with people. they actually had people working in the attic, in the basement, bathrooms were converted into offices, hallways were set up as offices with desks out in the hallways. people were squeezed in just about everywhere, and it became pretty clear by the end of the 1930s, after the new deal had so increased the size of the federal government, that they were going to need another office building. and especially because they needed more space for committees to meet. committees were partly in the capitol building, partly in the russell building. they were in large rooms but without a dias, as you see here.
10:35 pm
they were at a large table which the senators and the witnesses and staff and others would sit around the table. there was very limited space for public to attend the hearings. and they certainly weren't set up for televising. and so, there's a lot of reasons why the dirksen building was built, but it actually took a long time to be built, because the initial plans were started in 1941, and then world war ii intervened. and so, as a result, they didn't build the building when they needed it. they waited until 1950s. but in the 1950s, there were a lot of arguments. it was going to be very costly. they were going to have to buy up the property, the houses that were on the street here in washington right across from the capitol building. and there were a number of members who thought that it was extravagant and they shouldn't bother with it, and they delayed this. so, constantly, during the 1950s, the building was delayed until finally in 1956 it became so obvious that they needed more
10:36 pm
space, they were about to add two more states, which meant there were going to be four more senators. there was no space in the russell building for four senators to have more offices. and so, finally, they gave the go-ahead, and this building was constructed. and it was opened in 1958. it's not anywhere near as elaborate as the richard russell building across the street. it's a much more functional building. it's sort of a neo-neoclassical building. it has far fewer columns and fancy decorations. it's a pretty straightforward building. it's not as comfortable a building as the russell building. it's not a building that ever appealed to the senators the same way that the russell building did, but it served its purposes, and its chief purpose was to be a place for the committees to hold hearings that could be televised. this was 1958.
10:37 pm
television was in its prime. there was a lot of interest to televise the proceedings of congress, activities. they couldn't go on the floor. there was no c-span on the floor of the chambers at this stage, but the hearings of the senate were being televised, and they needed better situation, better equipment. the capitol building, interestingly enough, had direct current at this time, rather than alternating current. the u.s. capitol building had actually first been wired for electricity by thomas edison. edison believed in direct current. and sometimes, if you're sort of ahead of the curve in terms of technology, you become obsolete faster than everyone else. and so, until 1960, the u.s. capitol had direct current, which meant you couldn't plug anything into the walls. it really didn't serve the purposes of televising. as a result, the radio-tv gallery, where the radio and television reporters operated,
10:38 pm
petitioned the senate to have a role in the construction of the new building. and so, actually, there were television correspondents and representatives of the television network serving on the board that helped to design this building, and as a result, you have large committee rooms with paneled walls, and part of the panel can be lifted up, and there is a section in the back where television cameras and lights can be set in and not interfere with the hearings or with the people who are trying to attend the hearings. and the whole design of the committees were set up differently. the table that they used to sit around was replaced now with a dieus like this one, in which the senators would sit at the dius, the witness would sit at a table facing them. it made for much more interesting televising. and this is, of course, the way we think of congressional hearings today because this is what we're used to seeing whenever they're covered.
10:39 pm
so, this building then opened in 1958. 14 of the committees were established here, and there was a plan to have the chairperson of each committee occupy the office immediately next to the committee room. it all looked great on paper, except of course, the chairs of the committees were some of the most senior members of the senate. they had long operated out of very nice offices in the russell building across the street. many of them really did not want to move across the street, some of whom did move across the street didn't care for the space as much as they had liked the russell building. and so, very soon, the practice of having committee chairs occupy the space immediately next to the committee disappeared. as sometimes happens some chairs do like to be next to the committee that they spend most of their time with, but most of the other chairmen find it fine to work out of some other space.
10:40 pm
the dirksen building provided a lot of other services for the senate as part of the enormous growth of the institution. the basement level had two very large cafeterias, for instance. there was also an underground parking garage. there was a large area for a telephone switchboard because of the communications demands that were growing on the senate that operated out of this building and because senators were also sending home to their local tv networks film of their interviews and their statements and others. there was a recording studio built into this building down in the basement in a windowless room with a phony window with a capitol dome behind it that looked very distinguished as if it was a senator speaking from his or her office, but fact of the matter, it was another service that the building was able to provide. >> i suppose the only time we never had a public debt was in
10:41 pm
the days when andy jackson was the president of the united states. but other than that, i have no recollection that we have been without a debt but never with colossal proportions as the debt we have today. >> when the very first computer was installed, it was installed in this building, and it was designed to send, or to prepare letters to constituents. so many people continued to write in to senators, not only asking for something, but also giving their opinions about things. and senators always wanted to respond to anybody who wrote to them. and so, the first computer was acquired in the 1960s and installed in this building to be able to send, you know, mass mailings back to constituents. this is probably the most functional in many ways of the buildings, even though it has the smallest number of senators
10:42 pm
occupying the building. it is set up in the central section because of all of the committee activity, and of course, those are the things you're familiar with from watching televised hearings. >> i have reviewed in detail my 1973 work product -- outdoor recreation: a legacy for america. it continues to represent my philosophy and my commitment to recreation, to preservation and to multiple use of the resources of america. >> initially, televising was not gavel to gavel. before the days of c-span, the major networks would come to film, and they were only going to show, perhaps, a minute or two or at the most three for an evening newscast. so, they didn't want to spend a lot of time and effort and a lot of money on film.
10:43 pm
they would only film the highlights of the hearing, and that meant when certain senators spoke, the lights would come on, and when they stopped speaking, the lights would go off. in 1972, i attended a hearing in the russell building in which senator kennedy walked in the door -- this was senator ted kennedy. and as soon as he came in and sat down, the television lights came on. and when he asked his questions, the lights were on. and as soon as he left, even though another senator was speaking, the lights went off. it must have been dispiriting for the senator speaking at the time, but that was the reality of the situation. today we're used to gavel-to-gavel coverage, and you can watch it almost any time. there are a lot more highlights that become available of those hearings. the biggest hearings that that he place often are in the senate
10:44 pm
caucus room in the russell building. it's just a large space. but many of the hearings that we consider that sort of led up to those big blockbuster hearings took place here in the dirksen building. far more hearings, for instance, about the vietnam war took place in the foreign relations committee's hearing room here in the dirksen building than did the big, spectacular hearings that they held when they moved into the caucus room. and you see that played over and over. and quite often, the staff of these investigations could often be here in the dirksen building, even though the actual, the big hearings would be held in the russell building. and one of the most important hearings that the senate conducted in the 20th century was the investigation into watergate, into the presidential campaign of 1972. while those hearings took place famously in the russell building, the staff forged right
10:45 pm
here in a series of rooms down a back corridor here in the dirksen building. and it was in there that one of the pivotal moments of the watergate hearings took place, and that was when republican and democratic staff members were interrogating some of the white house staff, and one of the people they were interrogating was a man named alexander butterfield, who the committee had determined visited the white house chief of staff on a regular basis. every day he was in to see the white house chief of staff. and the question was what was he doing while he was there. and there was some question about whether or not anyone had ever recorded any of these meetings. and so so, it was actually the republican staff member of the committee who asked alexander butterfield if there had been any recordings. and the question was asked broadley enough that to be honest about answering it, butterfield had to admit that the white house had a very
10:46 pm
elaborate system of tape recording, that any time the president spoke in the oval office or spoke on the phone, tape recordings were being made. and this was a bombshell. it just changed the nature of the watergate investigation. much of the effort then became to try to open up those tapes to make them available for the committ committee, and the president, of course, dug in, tried not to make those tapes available. this is president nixon. eventually, the supreme court ordered that he had to turn over the tapes to the special prosecutor, and it was the revelations on the tapes that eventually led the house of representatives to begin impeachment hearings and led, eventually, the president to resign. but all that started in a very nondescript, little windowless room when staff were doing what staff are supposed to do, which is preliminary interviews of witnesses before they go before the public.
10:47 pm
of all the types of hearings that are held in this building, and there are hundreds of hearings being held all the time, that, in fact, in the mornings when i would come to work, i would see long lines of people sitting on the floor or standing or leaning against the wall trying to get space in the hearing rooms, but probably the hearings that get the most attention are nomination hearings, and particularly, supreme court nomination hearings. a supreme court appointment is a lifetime appointment. the addition of any one member on the court will affect that court. it's going to affect things for decades to come, and so, there's a huge amount of public attention on to supreme court nominations. of the current nine members of the supreme court, only one had his hearings in this building, and that was antonin scalia in the 1980s, and that was in one of the large hearing rooms in this building, in the dirksen building. >> do you have an opening
10:48 pm
statement that you'd like to make? >> no, i don't, senator, except to express my honor at being nominated by the president and the fact that i'm happy to be here and look forward to answering the committee's questions. >> this building then opened in 1958. it was meant to be built as inexpensively as possible at the time. and in fact, as soon as it was built, it was inadequate for its purposes in a lot of ways. one of the things they discovered right away was there just weren't enough elevators in the building. that may seem like a relatively small issue, except that when the bells go off and senators have to vote, they have 15 minutes to get from here to the capitol building across the street. there is a little subway that links them under ground so they can be shuttled back and forth, but if they're on their office on the fifth floor, they've got to get the elevator down to the basement to take it over. and as a result, there were problems early on when the
10:49 pm
senators couldn't get over to the capitol fast enough to cast a vote. no senator wants to miss a vote. and so, they actually had to add in extra elevator banks into the building, and it's still a building that's relatively slow and difficult to move around in. down in the basement are absolutely plain, windowless offices. it's like operating out of a tunnel and that's where brand-newly elected u.s. senators spend their first four, five months in office, because that's known as a swing space. the senators that they are replacing were probably much more senior, and as a result, had much nicer offices. and the freshmen senators coming in aren't entitled to move into those really nice offices. the middle-level senators who have been here for a few years are waiting their turn to move into those offices.
10:50 pm
so, when an office is emptied out and cleaned and painted, it takes a little while and then another senator moves in, and that office has to be emptied out and cleaned and painted. usually a senator who takes their oath of painted. usually a senator who takes the office in january does not get to move into their regular suite until april, may, sometimes june of that year. so after winning an election to the united states senate, and feeling like you're on top of the world, you show up, and you're immediately escorted down to the basement into one of these offices. when hillary clinton was elected a senator from new york, she was still living in the white house, because her husband had a couple months left to his term which was going to end later in january of 2001. she would leave the white house in the morning to go downstairs to a basement office with no windows. everybody starts out the same. there are numerous committee rooms in this building, but the
10:51 pm
room we're in right now is really the room designed for the most special events when the dirksen building was constructed. it was originally an auditorium, a 500-seat auditorium with a stage that was sloped down. this is where people would come to make announcements, large meetings would be held, it was not a hearing room at first. and then in the 1970s, senator frank church began to investigate problems with the cia and fbi. and this was goaliing to be the first investigation into the intelligence operations. the material they were handling was so secret that it had to be in a secure place. so this room was converted. a floor was built across. it was turned into offices for
10:52 pm
the church committee that was investigating the cia and the fbi. they had armed guards standing at each of the doors to make sure no one came in. reporters thought it was interesting that the church committee was trying to break through secrecy, but they were surrounded by guards to keep these secrets in here. but the fact of the matter is, if the congress was going to investigate, they had to promise to maintain secrets. so this room was a hub for that information. then, when the church committee led to the creation of the permanent committee on intelligence which still operates in the senate, this room became the intelligence committee back in those days. in the late 1970s and early 1980s. until the hart building was opened in 1983, and the intelligence committee then moved over there. then what do you do with a room of this size? at that time it was turned back
10:53 pm
into a hearing room. it's now sort of an all-purpose, multi-media room. it's been designed for the latest technology, special events, special hearings. there are all sorts of conferences. all sorts of events that take place in this space. so it's carried on with the nature of the building being sort of an all-purpose building. this room is a room that has had lots of hard political events in here. but it's also had a lot of social entertaining. most of them are very pleasant and very forgettable occasions. one stands out in particular. and that was the 100th birthday of senator strom thurmond, of south carolina. senator thurmond is the only united states senator to live to the age of 100 while he was serving in the senate, and of course the senate wanted to pay special tribute to him. so there was a large birthday festivity in here, which, in
10:54 pm
itself is a very nice occasion, and the then senate majority leader, trent lott came to pay homage to senator thurmond. and in his remarks, he was, as he said subsequently overly effusive. he praised senator thurmond's career in the senate, and then he recalled that in 1948, senator thurmond had run for president against president harry truman. >> i want to say this about my state. when strom thurmond ran for president, we voted for him. we're proud of him. [ applause ] and if the rest of the country had followed our lied, we wouldn't have had all these problems over all these years, either. >> which seems a relatively mild statement, except that senator lott forgot that senator thurmond ran as the segregationist candidate against
10:55 pm
president truman who had helped integrate the armed services. and, as a result, there was a huge a pressure within senator lott's party for him to step down as the leader of his party. and eventually, he did resign as majority leader of the senate as a result of this one statement made in this one room. and so it's a reminder that just about everything that a politician says is probably ila going to be recorded and anal e analyzeda and held against them at one time or another, even at an occasion such as a 100th birthday party. >> here you go, happy birthday, strom. blow hard. [ applause ]
10:56 pm
>> i should also mention why it's called the dirksen building. when the first senate office building opened, it was known as the senate office building. and it was known even more popularly by its acronym, which was the s.o.b. then, when this building opened up, that building became the old s.o.b. and this building became the new s.o.b. and senators began to think that at that was inappropriate, that they should have a more formal title for t senator russell died and was known as a senator's senator. he had great respect from all of his colleagues, regardless of their ideology, their party, so that building was named for richard russell who was a democrat. and for some balance, this building was named for a senator everett dirksen who had been the republican leader from 1959 to
10:57 pm
19 1969 and who was quite a popular figure with tousled hair, a deep voice, a terrific orator in the old school style. he won an award just for reading patriotic sheet music and speeches with music playing in the background. it was a quite popular piece at the time. ♪ >> down through the years, there have been men, brave, gallant men who have died that others might be free. >> and so dirksen, known at wizard of ooze, just as a popular person who actually represented a great spirit of bipartisanship. because he was the minority leader in the senate with a very small minority. he usually operated with 35 to
10:58 pm
3 36 senators on his side. but it was critical when it took two-thirds to cut off a filibuster. so if they were going to stop a filibuster on civil rights, they needed everett dirksen's support. the nuclear test ban treaty. once dirksen agreed to whatever the compromise was, then enough votes would come on board for the majority to prevail. and so everett dirksen, even though he was only the minority lieder was extremely important leader at this time, and it seemed fitting to name this building after him. senator dirksen liked to say that he was a man of principle, and one of his greatest principles was to maintain flexibility at all times. and that made him a very agile senator and a man who understood that you have to compromise in
10:59 pm
order to build consensus. in the united states senate, compromise is essential for passing any kind of legislation. getting some kind of bipartisanship is important because rarely does a majority party have sufficient votes to be able to pass something entirely by itself. always the majority leaders have got to persuade members of the minority to come on board. and always there's some kind of a coalition that's being built. so i think that's one of the reasons why the u.s. senate wanted to commemorate senator dirksen by naming this second building after him. you can watch this or other american artifacts programs at any time by visiting our website, c-span.org/history. wednesday night on american history tv on c-span 3, programs about the civil war. at 8:00 eastern, the 150th
11:00 pm
anniversary of robert e. lee's surrender at appomattox. we visit the anderson vil pri n prison. we talk to leslie gordon. the civil war at 8:00 eastern here on c-span 3. thursday on c-span, christmas at the white house. first lady michelle obama speaks to troops and their families in the east room. a tour of the white house holiday decorations and the annual national christmas tree lighting ceremony. christmas at the white house, christmas eve at 8:00 eastern on c-span. this holiday weekend, american history tv on c-span 3 has three days of featured programming, beginning friday evening at 6:30 eastern to mark the 125th anniversary of

0 Views

info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on